Category Archives: Improving Your Blog

How to add tags to your template WordPress 2.3

Although I upgraded to WordPress 2.3 over a month ago, I hadn’t taken the time to edit my template so that it would show the tags on each of my posts. I also wanted to add a tag cloud to the sidebar. It’s actually very easy to add tags to your template with WordPress 2.3.The following two links will help you get all set up:

  • the_tags: this method is used for displaying the tags of a single post. Use this within your Single Post template file.
  • wp_tag_cloud: this method will build a tag cloud for you. Use this within your Sidebar template file.

It’s pretty simple. Just add those two methods to your single post and sidebar templates, and you’ll be ready to go.

Upgrading to WordPress 2.3.1 – Now with tagging

WordPress 2.3.1 finally came to Fantastico on my Hostmonster account, so I have finally upgraded. I haven’t seen any problems yet. I’m hoping that most bugs have been smoothed over from the 2.3 release.

One of the things that I’m most excited about for this release of WordPress is the native support for tagging. I wrote a post a little while back on category cleaning for my blog. I used to treat categories like tags, but I’ve changed my thinking and the way that I organize my blog. I now have 1 category per post (unless I really have to go to 2).

Categories are like folders in a filing cabinet, tags are more like the index of a book, describing the contents so that you can easily find them later on.

After having used del.icio.us for almost 2 years now, I’ve found tags to be a really effective way of indexing my bookmarks. I can almost always find what I’m looking for very, very quickly. I’m hoping that tagging will come in useful for my blog as well.

Category Cleaning Results

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I wrote my last post on category cleaning. I thought I’d post the results of that activity here.

One of the keys to improving anything on the web is to track your visitors with a good analytics system. I use Google Analytics on this blog, so I ran some reports to see if my changes have had the effect that I wanted.

I compared 2 time periods: Sep. 4 – 13 with Oct. 2-11. Both time periods are Tuesday through Thursday intervals because I wanted to minimize time-of-week variances. Oct. 2 is the first whole day that had the categories changed.

General Site Statistics:

Overview

Overall, it appears that my blog is performing better, with higher Pages/Visit, a slightly lower Bounce Rate, and a higher Avg. Time on Site.

I wanted to see how the change affected my categories specifically. Here is a report for my “Web Services” category. It seems to align pretty well with a few of my other categories.

Web Services Category

From examining my ‘Navigation Summary’ report for that category page, it appears that people are now clicking from posts within this category and then to other related posts.

Another side-effect from changing my categories is that Google is hitting a bunch of pages not found. Check out this list from my Webmaster Tools report:

Webmaster Tools Report

The list is pretty long, but I don’t think it should affect my search rankings too drastically. There should just be a period of time before Google removes these pages from the index. If I had the time, I could configure redirects from all of the missing categories to related categories, but I don’t have the time for that.

Blog Improvement: Category Cleaning

My Old CategoriesI’m working on improving my blog and becoming more focused. I figure that the best place to start is by fixing my categories. Michael Martin published an article titled Using Categories and Tags Effectively on your Blog for ProBlogger this last week. It suggests limiting the number of categories and placing a post in a single category. It then recommends using ‘tags’ as a supplement for more detailed categorization.

If you take a look at my old category list, it just goes and goes. The picture shown here doesn’t even reach the bottom. I guess I have been using my categories as tags, as they used to be considered interchangeable. Recently, WordPress has decided that ‘tags’ and ‘categories’ are actually different things and they’ve added native tagging to the latest release (version 2.3). I’m anxiously waiting for this release to make it to my Fantastico application manager so that I can upgrade.

Before deciding to just chop away at my categories list, I decided to check my Google Analytics to see which categories are effective and which aren’t. I found some surprising results which I will list here.

I ran reports for the most viewed categories and time spent at category pages. I then compared that with the number of posts that I’ve listed under each category. Here are some of best and worst of the results:

Most Viewed

  • cakephp
  • ruby-on-rails
  • ajax
  • soap
  • flash
  • web-services

Least Viewed

  • technology
  • spam-fighting
  • soa
  • school
  • internet-explorer

Most Time

  • google
  • ajax
  • apriux
  • web-design
  • ruby
  • internet-marketing
  • blogging

Least Time

  • web
  • spam-fighting
  • soa
  • school
  • project-management
  • mysql
  • yahoo

Most Posts

  • technology – 71
  • business – 43
  • life – 34
  • web 2.0 – 32
  • php – 30
  • ideas – 18
  • google – 19

Conclusions

Here are some of the conclusions that I’ve drawn from my research. First of all, notice that ‘technology’ has by far the most number of posts, yet it is a definite loser category in that it is the top ‘least viewed’ category and is in the bottom half of time spent list. A category like ‘technology’ is just too broad and blasé. Most of my top posted categories fall in the lower tier of views.

Niche categories like ‘ruby-on-rails’ and ‘cakephp’ fell in the top viewed of categories. These categories didn’t have the most time spent though. I guess the interestingness of the actual posts needs to be improved.

The time spent report is probably the most helpful. It helps me identify categories that people have actually found interesting enough to read through. The categories might need some better naming to increase views, but the content in the categories must be interesting.

Learning From the Professionals

Two of my favorite professional blogs are ProBlogger and Freelance Switch. How do they do their categories?

From Freelance Switch

Freelance Switch Categories

From ProBlogger

ProBlogger Categories

One thing that stands out for me is that many of these categories label a particular series of posts. For example, Freelance Switch has The Lighter Side and The Business of Freelancing. ProBlogger has 31 Days to Building a Better Blog. I could see myself following one of those categories closely. With these types of categories, I know what to expect in future posts and look forward to new posts in the series.

Another observation is that categories that seem to offer me something valuable catch my attention more. Some of the categories that caught my interest the most were Finding Work, Freelancing Essentials, The Perils of Project Management, and The Working Day from Freelance Switch, and Blogging Tools and Services, Case Studies, and Other Income Streams from ProBlogger. These categories seem to contain something that I could take away to benefit my life.

Action Items

What do I do from here? I need to do some housecleaning and wipe out my ineffective categories. I need to come up with better naming of my categories. I need to come up with some categories that I think I could consistently blog for that will offer my readers value.

We’ll see how I do. Let me know what you think.

[Update: I've posted result stats to show how this has affected my blog.]

Help! I’ve Got Blogger’s Block

Help!

My blogging has really slowed down these last months and I think I’m experiencing some kind of writer’s block. I’m writing this post to hopefully get some feedback from you all out there.

I think my blog is going through a mid-life crisis of sorts. I’ve been reading a lot of really good stuff at ProBlogger, which has helped me identify some areas of improvement. I think my problem is that I’m not sure which direction I want to take my blog.

What is my theme?

You may have noticed that my blog has no tagline or defined theme. I’ve intentionally left that blank because I haven’t identified a theme yet.

If you look at my categories in the sidebar, you’ll see that the list is really long. I’ve been using categories as a sort of tagging mechanism, but I’ve found that ‘categories’ aren’t quite the same as ‘tags.’ [tags, by the way have been added to the latest version of WordPress]. A recent article on ProBlogger on effective categories and tagging suggests that you keep your category list short, and you file your posts into only one category per post. You then supplement that with more detailed tagging. This will probably be one of my first changes to my blog. Hopefully that exercise will help me stay more focused as a blogger, and to identify a theme.

Who is my audience?

I’m having a hard time identifying my audience. I think the reason I’m having a hard time doing this is because it has changed several times in the last couple of years. Here’s a short history of my blog.

I started blogging a few months before I was hired at Provo Labs. Provo Labs is a web incubator which at the time that I was there was trying to launch several web start-ups simultaneously. The environment was alive with entrepreneurial spirit. We were given 20% of our time to work on our own ideas and we were encouraged to blog. Planet Provo Labs was born, which was an aggregate of all Provo Labs employee blogs. The ‘planet’ became my audience as I blogged to share ideas and thoughts with others within the company and others who were intrigued by the mystery of what was going on inside Provo Labs.

We experienced a Black Friday where almost the entire Provo Labs team was laid off and Paul had to take the company in a new direction, focusing solely on World Vital Records. Most of us stuck together and formed 42Co, working to build TagJungle. Most of our blogs were still on Planet Provo Labs, and I felt my audience was mostly the same. During that time, I made a few affiliate posts about Host Monster, which I honestly like and use, but I feel that may have turned off some of my audience.

During my last semester of school, I was required to blog for 2 of my classes: Information Architecture, and Web Analytics. I enjoyed blogging about both topics, but I felt I may have alienated some of the less-geeky readers as I dug into specifics of SOAP in PHP, XML-RPC, and so forth.

I am now a partner in Apriux, a web development/consulting company. I have found it harder to blog about work because most of our projects are under strict NDAs. Also, many of you who have started your own businesses will attest to the fact that things get really, really busy. So, my blog has pretty much been dead during this growing time, and now I feel like I’ve lost touch with my audience.

So, my goals for the next week or two is to identify who I want my audience to be (and who my current audience is), choose an appropriate blog theme, and begin improving my blog.

What would you like to see?

Feedburner tells me that I have 54 subscribers, so if any of you have made it to this point, please comment on what types of postings you have found most interesting in the past. Also, feel free to give me as much constructive criticism that you’d like. I really would like to make my blog better.

Hosting Blogger On Your Own Domain

 

Note: This post now also pertains to the new Blogger Beta. It is now safe to change over to the new version of Blogger. FTP functionality is now supported, although you won’t enjoy all of the new features of Blogger.

Update: I have now posted some video tutorials on how to set up WordPress on your own domain. If you are willing to take a look at WordPress as an alternative to Blogger, check them out, otherwise these instructions should get you all set up.

This is for my friends in my BYU Internet Marketing class where everyone will be setting up a blog and blogging for class credit. In class, someone asked if it was possible to put your blogger account on your on domain. So, here’s my post on Hosting Blogger On Your Own Domain.

Step 1 – Buy your domain name
The first thing to do is to buy your domain name. I suggest using a registrar that is separate from your hosting account. Personally, I use Godaddy.

The reason I suggest keeping the name registrar and hosting separate is so that you can switch to a new host easily if a company comes out with a killer hosting package.

Step 2 – Get a hosting account
Next, you need to get a hosting account. I own a Host Monster
account, which allows me to put unlimited domain names on my one account. They also offer a ton of storage and bandwidth, and have great customer support.

If you bought your domain separately from your hosting account, you need to set up your DNS. Otherwise, move on to Step 3. Also, if when purchasing your domain, you were asked to specify your primary domain, and set that up during the sign-up proces, move to Step 3.

The following instructions apply to HostMonster or Bluehost and Godaddy accounts. The principles are the same for other hosting, but details may vary. Consult the support for your registrar and hosting account if you need help for your specific needs.

Godaddy (or whatever registrar you used) needs to know where the files are that make up your actual website. To point Godaddy to your hosting account, sign in to your account at Godaddy, click on ‘My Account’, and then click ‘Manage Domains’. You should now see all of your domain names listed. Click on your domain name. On the right you should see a section that says “Nameservers Summary”, in that section click on the “Click here to see details or to modify” link.

Once you are at the Set Name Server screen, select ‘Single Domain’ and the ‘Custom Name Servers’ radio buttons. In the Name server 1 and 2 fields you need to enter the name server information from your hosting account. Most likely you received this in an email when you signed up for your hosting account. Host Monster’s
name servers are NS1.HOSTMONSTER.COM and NS2.HOSTMONSTER.COM.

You almost have your domain and hosting account set up, and that is most of the hard stuff. The last step is to set up your addon domain on your hosting account. Log into your cpanel (usually http://yourdomainname.com/cpanel) and from there, click on the “Addon Domains” link. Follow the directions, and you should have your domain name pointing to your hosting account in no time.

Step 3 – Set up an FTP account
Set up your FTP account. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol which is the way Blogger publishes your blog to your hosted account.

From your cPanel (http://yourdomainname.com/cpanel), click on ‘FTP Manager’. On the next screen, click “FTP Accounts.” You can now create a new account which will be used by blogger to publish your blog by clicking “Add FTP Account.”

Make sure you specify the correct directory that you want your blog to be published to. For example, if you want your blog to be located at http://youraccount.com/blog/, then the path would most likely be /home/acc_name/public_html/blog/, unless you are using an addon domain, in which case it would be located at /home/acc_name/public_html/addon-domain-name/blog/.

Step 4 – Get a Blogger Account
Now, you’ll need a Blogger account. This is a pretty easy and painless step. Just follow their directions.
Step 5 – Connect Blogger to your FTP Account
The last thing you’ll need to do is connect Blogger to your ftp account. Once you are signed into your Blogger account, go into your blog’s admin panel, click on the ‘Settings’ tab, and then on the ‘Publishing’ sub-tab. From there, click on the “Switch to FTP” link.

From here, just fill in the information according to how you set it up in the hosting cPanel. Note: the FTP Server will be ftp.yourdomain.com. Your FTP path should be left blank if you set up the ftp account correctly. The username should be in username@domain.com format.

Hope this helps. With all that said, I use WordPress now for my blogging, which if you bought a hosting account through Host Monster
is really easy to set up. Just go to the “Fantastico” link and create a new WordPress install.